You Had Me At "Welcome!"

I've just returned from a four day business trip to Memphis.  I stayed at the Memphis Downtown Sheraton (which at one time was a Marriott property). Sheraton Memphis

One word about the service:  Exceptional

From check in to check out everybody from the front desk the the valet to the bellmen to the folks that cleaned the rooms and served the food. It was the very best I've experienced.

Sure, most folks in the hospitality industry get it when it comes to customer service and they say, "Good morning!" and they say, "Yes sir!" but rarely have I run into so many people who simply opened up and...talked.  They talked about their jobs, their family their work, their church. They took time to have a conversation with a complete stranger.

One of the employees and I talked about the Memphis economy and how it feels like it's passing many by. "I'm not complaining but it's rough Michael. Really tough to make ends meet and I work two jobs."

I listened.  At the end of our brief conversation he said. "Mr. Libbie, thank you for listening and for caring. I really feel better."

People...really good people doing really good work, hard work.

It was great to meet every one of them.  It was great to move them out of "hospitalilty workers" and into...people.  Plain folks who are doing the best they can.

How about you?  Your thoughts?  Have you had the opportunity to experience amazing customer service the same time...get a chance to look beyond the name tag?   Let me know?  I'm interested.



Insight Advertising, Marketing and Communications is a full service advertising agency based in Des Moines and the fuel that powers Insight on Business the Daily Business News Broadcast.

Flying With Cookies...

Took a trip this week to the Atlanta for the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association fall meeting.  Did I tell you I dislike flying?  You see, I'm old.  Old enough to remember whenMidwest Logo taking a flight was special.  The people dressed to take the trip.  The folks waiting on you looked professional and they were nice...  Today travelers look like refugees from Uzbekistan and the "help" look and act like left overs from some Soviet gulag.  OK maybe not that bad...but compared to the "golden age of flight".  Travel by air is a mess.

My office booked my flight to Atlanta on Midwest Airlines.  "Who?" I asked.  "They have airplanes?"

Was I surprised.  The crew was crisp, attentive and personal.  The aircraft was clean and actually smelled good. 

Cookie was the cookies that got me.  Yes, hot, like right out of the oven, chocolate chip cookies to die for.  Oy, the smell...the was

You see how little it takes to get me excited?  Fresh chocolate chip cookies and I'm all over it.

But the real difference was the people.  They conversed with us, they smiled, they actually seemed like they enjoyed shuttling refugees from place to place.

One more thing.  Who ever is doing their PR...hire them.  The "in-flight magazine" had four letters to the company praising the efforts of various staff members from all over the country.  And, know what?  I think they were real...  Nice work.

So, bring it on...warm cookies, warm smiles and flawless travel.  Nice job Midwest Airlines....very nice.




Wandering Charleston

I'm in Charleston with the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association Summer Board Hotel Meeting.  My it has been for several years is to learn, contribute and perhaps field a client or two.  After all that's what we folks sell more of what they make. 

Today was a short day with little in the way of "official" business.  So, I wandered the area near our hotel, The Charleston Place.  If you are coming here to check out the wisdom of marketing and advertising there isn't much today.  However something must be here for people to brave the high temps and higher humidity.  Why would folks come here in the summer??? 

Meeting Street Style Have a look around.  Each photo can be enlarged with a click.  Just around the corner from the hotel is Meeting Street.  Shop after shop after shop.  Business today seemed brisk.  People in town for Freshman Orientation for the College of Charleston.  This is Williams Sonoma (stop me before I max out the card!) a favorite in an old theater.

And, I know how boring it is to watch "somebody's" slide show or photos...but humor me a bit.Church Gate

There is a message at the end.

On the right is the entrance fo a church.  A Unitarian Church...what is interesting is that around all of the churches I saw...there are the old graveyards.  Lacking space like we do, the church just buried the folks "on site".  What a hoot come Halloween.

Church Headstones many Down in this section of Meeting Street, in the opposite direction of The Collage of Charleston, are a series of antique shops.  Now, antiques here tend to be a bit different than antiques in Iowa.  Old here dates back to the 1700's.  I was in buildings, still used along Market Street, that were built 25 years BEFORE Iowa became a state.

Market street runs into Broad Street.  This seems to be the professional section of theBroad Street Old City.  Plenty of law offices.  I had to muse a bit...wondering in which set of suites the South Carolina Governor's wife may have visited before trying to work it out...with the "wandering head of state".  (Side bar:  Just what the heck was he thinking anyway?)

Row after row of very old homes turned into offices and upscale lunch and dinner places.  Horse drawn cabs, trolleys and peddle-cabs seem to be a favorite mode of transportation in the Old City.  Horse Taxi on Broad (Side bar:  How these guys wear SUITS, dark yet, during the summer here is beyond me.  Give me flowing robes or something..yikes!) A word about the horses, I was told by one of the guys I visited with that the ASPCA or city or somebody will not let the horses work when it gets hot.  How hot does it have to be?  Don't know but I was glad I wasn't pulling around a bunch of folks!

I walked down a street off Broad and came on this cross street paved in cobble stone.  Check the private home.  All along the side streets these two and three story narrowCobblestone Street homes are bunched together.  Nobody has to worry about mowing the lawn here.  But, watch your footing.  A guy could sprain an ankle on these things.  But...charming?  You bet!

So...the marketing message here has got to be the word "charming".  We've seen that floated around in number of uses...but this place has it.  There can be NO OTHER reason to head here in the summer but...people do.  I spoke to folks from all over this country and others who were just as amazed in the character of the area.

And...the city works the "look".  Not every home is well painted and spiffy...but, you can forgive that because the look fits into the texture of the community.  Lot's of fun and thanks for indulging me just a bit.  Now...back to work!



Selling Beyond Price - Empowerment

Those of you who follow my posts know I was not excited about being in Phoenix for five days.  It’s not the time away or the company I’m with, Cliffs FEMA is a great group of farm equipment manufacturers.  It was the cost.  The flight price was OK.  It was the daily charge at Pointe Hilton at Tapatio Cliffs Resort that got me.  (Any time you add an “e” to the word, point it’s going to cost you.) 

It comes to about $250 a night. 

That’s a hefty price tag for a bed…in any city.

The price, however, pays for what has been exceptional service.  Here is just one example:  On Wednesday at 7am we had a breakfast meeting for 40 executives.  One of the FEMA staff members, Tricia, had been busy setting up a registration center since before 7 and did not eat.  By the time our meeting was over at 9:00 she was looking for “just about anything”.  I walked back into the meeting room, that was in the process of being torn down by three maintenance workers, and asked if any of the pastries were left.  I told one of the guys what was up and he said, “Just a moment sir.”

Less than three minutes later a member of the kitchen staff returned with a hot breakfast and said, “Here you are sir, our complements.  Can I get you anything else?”

IMG_4759 Is it worth $250 a night?  Maybe not but that one event (out of a dozen other examples so far) made it easier to swallow and sold me on the idea that even in these times it’s NOT always about price.  

It’s about value.


Empowering your people to make sure the customer is satisfied, beyond their expectation, doesn’t cost…it pays.  And, in this case, how many people do you think just experienced a customer service “win”?   Plenty…was it worth the effort?


Michael P. Libbie – Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we didn’t pay $250 a night…thanks Travelocity.


Lighten Up Already....

I knew there would be a teachable moment on the trip from Des Moines to Phoenix for the FEMA (Farm Equipment Manufacturing Association) spring conference.  And it came really quickly...

It wasn't the surprise of the $15 "Luggage Fee" on US Airways.  (No, it was not U_S__Airways_Logo overweight...they just charge you to put luggage on the plane.)  It wasn't the $2 price tag for the Diet Coke.  (We do expect that after all..)  It wasn't the rush to the gate...

It was the "Safety Instructions" that got me.  "Donna" was doing to talking on the DSM to Phoenix flight and "Sam" was doing the demo.  We went through the exits, the O2 masks and the seat belts.  It was when we got to the part about the "floatation device" that it got fun.

"In the very, VERY unlikely event we experience a water landing between Des Moines and Phoenix your seat cushion doubles as a flotation device.  Pick up the cushion and put your arms through the straps and make your way to the exit.  Upon exiting the aircraft the seat cushion becomes complementary."

I laughed, the guy next to me fact snickers could be heard throughout the plane.  When "Donna" came buy for my water order I told her she made the trip and all the lousy stuff went away.

It's not what I expected....and I told her and said, "Thank you".  These folks often have a tough job...but this time a little lightness a very big way.  Maybe we sometimes take our jobs a little too seriously?

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we hope we don't get anybody in trouble....for saying nice things.






An Amazing Journey - Israel

Jerusalem By the time you read this on Monday I'll be in Israel for a lifetime trip.  It's something I thought I'd never be able to do but thanks to some wonderful folks, including my wife, it's happening.  Though I'm a little nervous about leaving the office for such a long stretch.

I'm going for several reasons.  First I want to experience what my brother and son have already seen.  Hey, my turn!

I'm also profoundly interested in agriculture in Israel.  I have a feeling it's a long way from agriculture here in Iowa.

I'm also going to represent a client with a visit to Yad Vashem and several other places where we might interest folks in The Sparks Fly Upward.

I am hoping to keep in touch through this BLOG.  And, share with you, first hand, some of the experience in agriculture, marketing & advertising that goes on here.  We'll catch you later and thanks for reading!

Michael Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications


Farewell Big Easy...From FEMA

Fema_no_sundown It's been an interesting couple of days here at the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Association (FEMA) Fall Meeting.  Warning...this is a very LONG post from our Advertising Agency...

The members who make up the association are downright "giddy" at their performance in 2007.  At one time, not that long ago, folks were RUNNING away from agriculture because there was zero profit margin.  Today people who have never worked the "ag crowd" are joining so they can get a piece of the profits generated by an outstanding farm economy.

But, this post is about some of the people and things we experienced in our three days in New Orleans.  And, where we can, we'll give you a visual.

Fema_no_bob The long time Executive Director of FEMA, Bob Schnell and wife Marcie were on hand as they have been for years.  Bob still thinks there is "no future" in the world of blogging and tells us that "nobody reads this stuff anyway".  OK...Bob.  Nice to see you again...he is such a "tender guy".

Fema_no_minimal This is Ashok Singh Garcha of Safe Engineering.  He won my annual "Impress Them With A Minimal Display" award.  Ashok came with his "stuff" packed in his pockets.  "Why bring so much stuff?" He asked.  Hey....if it sells...what the heck.  BUT, don't tell our clients that we create high end displays for...

Fema_no_crane_creek This is Kari Warberg who founded Crane Creek Gardens.  It's pretty cool...she's cooked up a way to keep tractor cabs smelling nice while chasing away the mice. (nice ring to that huh?) I've been in plenty of tractor cabs that could use both.  We'll have her on our radio show one of these days.

Fema_no_obrian_logo Here is the outside of Pat O'Briens.  This joint has a very special place in my heart.  I have a photo, I'll share it with you someday, of my Father (may he rest in peace) sitting with a bunch of his buddies...all Navy guys from WWII.  Every time I get to New Orleans I go's kind of like a shine and I imagine my father when he was all of 24 having a beer with his best friends and somehow it helps.  I miss him greatly.

Fema_no_charlie This is Charlie GlassWe've written about him before.  He is smart, on track and usually way ahead of others.  His program on Trade Shows was excellent.  We wrote about many of the Trade Show Woes we did in other postings.  It was great to know, according to Charlie, we are on the right track.

Fema_no_supplier_board I sit on the Board of Governors for the Supply Section of FEMA.  That is like the "associates" who sell stuff to the manufacturers like steel, tubing, insurance, print, and advertising agencies.  Here is our Board working...and at 8:30am.  In New Orleans yet!  At the head of the table (holding court) is Dave Laughlin of Primary Steel.  A good friend and a great guy.

Fema_no_train I had no idea you could get this close to a train!  Running yet!!  And this is right downtown!

Fema_no_burboun_st What?  Did I make it to Bourbon Street?  Ahhhh.... well, let's see...that is an excellent question.  Yes, but I am grateful my good friend Jeff Griggs of All State Ag Parts was not with me.  We would have been out until very early in the morning.  Maybe.  Jeff, remember this place?  I bought the round there usual.

James_lloyd Best speech of the event?  James Lloyd.  Really...very, very good. If you are looking for an opening speaker.  Give Jim a call.  He not only has a great gift...but also a wonderful story.  Tell him we sent you., that's it.  It's a wrap.  I'm outta here. more tiny thing. If you come to New Orleans and you want some top end service at a chain hotel.  Call Dennis Doherty of the Sheraton New Orleans.  I had what was maybe the worst stay of my career.  And I did complain.  Then, Dennis called as I was writing this and made it right.  And...said he would take this up with their staff and policy people to make sure future guests had a better experience.  Thanks make it happen!

Thanks for spending more time than usual with us...

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we're grateful that you came buy for a read. BOB Schnell says, "Nobody reads that crap!"

Advertising/Marketing & THE Bike Ride...

Ragbrai_bikes_road_3 This is a cool story about the difference between "advertising" and "marketing" and WHY you, as a busines person, need to not only know the difference...but consider "how to" do it.

RAGBRAI - For those of you not in Iowa, is an annual bike ride across the state.  This year was the 35th year of the ride.  There were 10,000 riders, several thousand more support people and 477 miles to cover in less than a week.  (Did we mention Lance Armstrong was also along for the ride?)

Georgie_pork_chop_2 Our office was represented by Georgie who, four weeks earlier, had gone on a much smaller ride of 1,500 people in Illinois.  Needless to say, the SIZE of this event was staggering.  But there was more...her story:

"All along the 477 mile route people had stands where they were selling everything from sweet corn to water to even pork chops!  By day two of the ride I started noticing the "advertising".  Sometimes the operators of these stands would just put up a sign next to their booth and let us riders know what they had for sale.  Pretty passive.

But, the smart operators started their signs miles before you got to their booth.  Like:

  • Pork Chooooooooooop - 10 Miles!"
  • (Think "Mr. T"):  "I pity the fool that don't eat Pastafari - 5 miles!"

That was advertising.

And then there was this water stand...eight miles out the signs started:

  • "See Cuddles & Buy Water - 8 Miles"
  • "See Cuddles Eat Grass & Buy Water - 5 Miles"
  • "See Cuddles Chew While You Enjoy Water - 2 Miles"
  • "See Cuddles Poop - Just Ahead"

Cuddles The signs were the "advertising" and Cuddles was the "marketing".  And it worked...dozens of people were buying water and watching Cuddles.  While down the road fifty yards at another stand, nobody.  We saw this all along the route. 

The people that "advertised" did well.  The people that also were out "marketing" did better.  Yep, advertising works...but when you throw in a little marketing's golden!"

Thanks, Georgie.  So, the question to you:  Are you simply advertising or are you marketing too?

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where we think Cuddles made the story...and, yes...Georgie DID get to say "Hi" to Lance...

What Happened to the Week?

Man_gun_or_noose I don't know...maybe we should have Congress pass a law that says we can only celebrate holidays on Sunday!  Four day work weeks are killing me...

Not sure what the heck happened but it is Thursday morning already and I've got three days of work to accomplish before tomorrow.

You know, I have this formula about the work week...I once worked in the "corporate world" and I came to believe there are really only two working days in the week.  Ready?

Monday - Nobody works on Monday.  Why?  Most folks are reviewing their Saturday and Sunday adventures with co-workers.  Monday is shot.

Tuesday - Nobody works Tuesday morning.  Most folks are fretting about having missed all day on Monday so work "really" doesn't start until Tuesday afternoon.

Wednesday - Is a solid work day.  Unless you are a Church Elder and have a program to create before services.  (Do churches still meet on Wednesday night like they once did?  I may be showing my age again.)

Thursday - Corporate America works on Thursday MORNING.  But don't expect much on Thursday afternoon..."Hey, we've got a weekend to plan for!"

Friday - I HATE "Casual Friday".  I've been to offices where the staff on Friday looks more like "Jimmy Buffett Rejects" than business folks. just promotes the whole idea that..."Hey, we have a weekend to plan for...and it starts today!"

There you go...Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday and Thursday morning...Two Working Days each week.

Excuse me...I've got to get back at it...

Michael P. Libbie - Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications where you can always make contact with us by clicking here.

"It's Becoming an Issue."

Bay_point_2 Fixing In-Room WiFi "Issues"

By Michael P. Libbie, Insight Advertising, Marketing & Communications

For those of us who frequently travel and get to stay in the nicer hotels or do presentations for groups and/or gatherings and they put us up in Marriott, Hilton or Hyatt properties, we have an "issue".  And, so do the hotel chains.

I'm presenting a series of presentations to the NTPDA here in Panama City Beach, FL and staying at the Bay Point Marriott.  (That's a shot of the lobby.)  The charge to use the Internet, in my room, is $9.95 a day.  In the lecture hall the charge to hook up to the Internet for my presentation on Blogging and Being Found was $175.  No I'm not paying the client is.  But, still...I've had enough and decided to go to management and ask, "Why?".

Jeff Segan, the General Manager, was out Friday afternoon but I did get to talk with his Executive Assistant, Judy.  (Great person from Ann Arbor, MI who's mom still lives in a private home surrounded by the U of M campus...can you imagine the value of that house?)  I, with what I think was great tact, expressed my frustration about the charges and said, "You know, what I don't get is that if I stayed at Super 8 my high speed Internet connection would"  Karen, wrote down my "issue" and called the Chief Information Officer, Glenn Bollhalter to come and explain to both of us the reason why the Marriott (and finer hotel chains) feel they can charge when economy hotels give Internet connections away for free.

She then said, "You know, this is becoming more and more a major issue and it seems like we hear about it all the time.  In fact, it's one of the things that gets brought up, regularly, in our staff meetings." 

Long story...short.  The hotel reversed the charges (for me) and Glenn did a nice job in explaining cables and WiFi and also said somebody at corporate needs to figure this out.  Figure it out?  No....

Fix it.

It is quickly becoming a major public relations nightmare for hotels who charge for this service...mostly because they figure they can...and simply fail to react to the consumer market.  Taking nickles and dimes out of our pocket for this and the privilege of using "Business Centers". (Don't get me started about the Crown Center Hyatt in Kansas City or the Hilton in Omaha where you have to swipe credit cards to make a copy or use a computer....GRRRRRRRRRRR!)

Business Travelers Unite!Signature Omacvhh_hilton_omaha_home_right  But more importantly, the finer hotel chains need to understand what a customer service problem this is and simply fix it.   For those of you in the business of booking conventions for your members.  Want to be a HERO?  Negotiate with the property in advance and if they "usually" charge for this service have the hotel waive it for your room block.  You'll usually carry more weight than us little ol' "Business Travelers".  Am I being unreasonable?